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Let’s squash the virus and enjoy new ways to eat squash

Peggy Walker | Community Columnist

Squash is a funny sounding word with many meanings.  Though with only one syllable it has at least 3 sounds: the “s,” the “q” and then the “aush.” Some might even put an “r” in there to make it “squarsh.  And, the word “squash” has as many definitions as it does sounds to pronounce.  As a verb, you can put an end to something, like squash your plans or an idea; squash a revolt; or squash a bug.  Or squash through mushy ground or in water-soaked boots.   Or squash (meaning squeeze) into something, like skinny jeans or clowns in a VW beetle.

Play “squash” with a racket and a rubber ball in a 4-walled court or “squash tennis” with a racket and an inflated ball the size of a tennis ball.  And always use the word correctly. The adverb form, squashily, means “in a squashy manner.” The adjective “squashy” means easily squashed or it can be used to describe overripe fruits that have gotten soft.  Like a squashy peach.

As a noun “squash” is a vegetable, but no, squash that idea, it’s a fruit of the gourd family cultivated as a veggie.  Squash grows and thrives in warm weather first producing big leaves and pretty blossoms which some people like to batter, fry and eat.  The yellow fruits follow, usually hiding on the ground around the plant as they mature, some straight and others crook necked.

Squash bugs love squash too but are easily squashed. DW keeps up with how many he kills.  They seem to work at night.  Often all appears well in the garden one day but the next those black bugs will have attacked causing the squash plants to bite the dust.  I interviewed DW for this article regarding his thoughts on growing squash.  He thoughtfully said that squash bugs are actually good for something because they keep us from having to eat squash every night for the entire summer.  Okay, got it… he’s squashed out.

No can do.  For those of you with a bounty of squash freezing is the recommended method for “putting it up.”  Squash has a higher pH meaning it’s not acidic, unlike tomatoes.  Deadly botulism spores can survive in low acid canned goods making them very unsafe to eat.  Freezing squash is safe and easy: wash, trim off blossom ends, cut in ½-inch slices, water blanch for 3 minutes. Then cool promptly and drain; fill pint or quart sized freezer bags leaving 1 ½-inch head space and store in deep freezer.

Eat it. Sautéed, fried, cooked in a casserole, baked, grilled, raw and pickled.  My mother prepared her famous casserole by adding cooked chopped onion, white pepper, salt and a white sauce made with cheddar cheese, topped with bread crumbs and a little butter. So good with fresh peas.

DW and I like fresh squash prepared in a non-stick skillet with a little olive oil, sautéed with chopped white onion with a sprinkling of fresh basil and freshly cracked pepper.  Maybe once during squash season, I’ll fry sliced squash, first soaked in buttermilk, then coated with a meal/flour mixture.  This recipe however, squashes the idea of a low-fat diet…and squashing into skinny jeans.

Last week daughter-in-law Laura served us squash she had sliced, tossed in a tiny amount of olive oil, seasoned very lightly with salt and garlic powder and baked on a foil lined tray in her toaster oven.  Tasty and easy.  Grilling squash is easy too: slice longwise, coat with a light spray of vegetable oil (or none at all), sprinkle with available fresh herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, or thyme) and pepper then grill until fork tender. Summer’s finest.

And don’t squash the idea of eating raw squash until you’ve tried it.   Add small tender pieces to a green salad or slice for dipping.  Squash pickles and relish go squashily with peas and butterbeans, too.

And, please, let’s squash this virus that’s going round.  Follow the science and not the politics: stay home as much as possible to avoid exposure or spreading it; avoid being in groups or getting to close to others; wear a mask when you can’t socially distance; keep hands off your face; sneeze/cough into your elbow or under your mask; wash your hands frequently while you’re away from home or use hand sanitizer and wash them again as soon as you get back home. We must, or else life for the foreseeable future will be totally squashed at the very least and will mean death at the very worst for too many. We…as in you and me and the rest of us…have got to take control and end this nightmare.  Please.